It should come as no surprise to those of you who read my reviews to know that my beloved horror genre has almost completely disappointed me in the past decade and a half or so. Every now and then something will come along to whet my appetite and keep me entertained just long enough for the next piece of crap to come along and remind me how awful the horror world has gotten. Spiral did a great job of breathing life into the psychological thriller/horror flick. Hatchet made me flash back to the eighties and the old campy feel of horror icons. Rob Zombie’s Halloween wasn’t brilliant, but it sure as hell was fun. And with the rumors of Ash making a comeback sometime in the future always being debunked; it was nice getting another freakish hero by the name of Jack Brooks.
Meet Jack Brooks. He has a lot to deal with taking night classes to get his degree and having a day job as a plumber which he is just awful at. To make his life even less appealing, Jack is constantly battling depression ever since he was a child and saw his family murdered right before his eyes. It wasn’t just a normal hate crime or murder though as it was a troll from the depths of the forest that took his family and left Jack’s mind a mess of confusion and disappointment. Things can’t really get much worse for Jack, or so he thinks. When his nighttime class professor begins showing signs of demonic possession; his life becomes a lot more complicated and also more focused. Jack knows that it’s time to put his fears aside and save lives before the demon can do any more damage and cause more havoc.
Ok, so all the films I mentioned in my opening paragraph are better then Jack Brooks, but I think the filmmakers have the right idea in mind. Instead of introducing us to the next horror icon; we get the next horror hero. In the way that Ash kicked ass in Evil Dead, Sidney stood up to Ghostface, and Buffy destroyed vampires; Jack Brooks steps into the role of a hero persevering over their past demons and moving along to defeat present demons. It’s a fun change to some of the horror flicks we’ve had of late and gives us someone of merit to cheer for instead of just a generic stand-alone from a group of nobodies. One problem is that it takes a little too long to get to the point of action so hopefully that means this was to be an introductory film and that a sequel shall follow.
Jack Brooks borders on the line of being a fun, campy, bloodbath of a cheesy slasher-hero pic or being a dull film where the first three-fourths makes way for the final action-packed act. See, I enjoyed it a lot more then many who check it out will because the introductory tales are what get me excited when I see a possible new horror franchise on the rise. Most non horror junkies are going to sit through the first half hour of Jack Brooks and repeatedly ask, “So when’s the good stuff going to start?” Give it a chance people because it is a first effort and it’s not going to be perfect, but it’s a decent start and one that I hope lets us see Jack Brooks in many films to come.
The film is shown in 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and even though there is a severe lack of CGI and a huge amount of costumes and such; the film comes off looking great. Colors are bright when they need to be and the darker scenes can be viewed just fine.
The film is heard in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and it also comes off without a hitch. Dialogue can be heard loudly while the music and numerous sound effects are heard surrounding you through every speaker.
Audio Commentary – Director Jon Knautz, composer Ryan Short, producer Patrick White, and producer/actor Trevor Matthews join together for a commentary that finds them joking around with each other more then actually paying attention to the film. Sometimes I’m alright with that kind of commentary, and this is one of those times because it’s a supposed cheesy horror flick that deserves to have an audience enjoying themselves while watching it. At times they give some information from backstage and what happened while filming, but it’s enjoyable listening to them crack on each other too.
Behind The Scenes – Yeah, it’s a “making of” featurette, but it far from basic and one of great detail that I did not expect to find included on this DVD. Cast and crew give information and their thoughts on not only the film itself, but also on shooting and how things were on the set. We’re shown filming locations, night shoots, make-up effects, joking around, and just a lot of stuff that went into creating another run into the horror world.
Creating The Monsters – Creature creator David Scott brings viewers into his workshop to show how special effects, wounds, scrapes, cuts, bruises, bleeding, monsters, and everything in the film was done. I love seeing these kinds of featurettes because it is amazing how complicated certain effects look in films but are just done with simple household items and a little time. This featurette runs fifteen minutes and twenty seconds.
Creating The Music – Ryan Shore is the composer on the film and takes us all inside the music of Jack Brooks in this twelve minute and forty-nine second feature. Some of the music is what makes a lot of the scenes in the film and honestly causes them to be even better then they first appear so it’s fun watching all the work that went into the score.
World Premiere: Sitges, Spain – A three minute featurette focusing on the premiere in Spain and showing highlights from a press conference and opening.
Deleted Scenes – The main focus of these deleted scenes is to build up the character of Jack Brooks more. There is a lot more dealing with him as a young man and all the struggles he faces in his adult life. Not bad, and some of them actually could and should have been left in especially since the film is just under ninety minutes anyway.
Storyboard Comparisons – Here is a ten and a half minute feature that gives some nice comparisons from how scenes looked on paper to the finished product. It’s always fun watching these because it shows what their original aim was and then if it worked or not.
Galleries – Some still shots from on the set and some conceptual art is shown here. Good stuff to check out.
For a film that barely got any time in theatres and got so little press; it sure got one hell of a DVD release. The film itself is decent and pretty god by my standards for a first go-round, but won’t please every single person out there. Those that are the occasional horror flick watcher will probably be thoroughly disappointed and bored before getting to the really good stuff. People like me will love the awesome monsters and gory creatures that trudge through a school and have one common enemy in a nondescript hero. Tomato…to-mah-to, can’t please everybody. Going to the special features and that’s what amazed me most about this DVD because there is close to two hours worth of extra stuff not counting the commentary track. That’s an awful lot of bonus material for such an unknown film, but I’m not complaining because it was all pretty good viewing. Horror fans will want to pick this one up because it’s not bad and it’s got Robert Englund in it for God’s sake. All others may want to grab a rental one night at least for the special features and freaky monster fun.
Anchor Bay presents Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Directed by: Jon Knautz. Starring: Trevor Matthews, Robert Englund, James A. Woods, and more. Written by: John Ainslie. Running time: 87 minutes. Rating: R. Released on DVD: October 7, 2008. Available at Amazon.com